The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, dismissed a suit challenging the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s power to deregister the African Peoples Alliance (APA) as political party in the country.
Delivering judgment, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, held that he was bound by the decision of the Court of Appeal which upheld the powers of INEC to deregister political parties.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that while APA was the plaintiff in the suit marked: FHC/EN/CS/21/2020, INEC, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission and Attorney-General of Enugu State were 1st to 4th defendants respectively.
Justice Taiwo noted that the decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) Vs. INEC cannot be overemphasised.
He said that the UPN had sought to challenge its deregistration based on the belief that it might win an elective position in future elections in the country.
The judge held that Section 225A of the Constitution of Nigeria which empowered INEC to deregister political parties never provided that INEC’s power could not be exercised when a political party had sponsored candidates to vie for an election.
He said that there was no evidence placed before the court by the plaintiff to show that INEC was aware that its candidates were participating in the local government council election of Enugu State at the time APA was deregistered.
He stated that Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission and Attorney General of Enugu State should not have been made parties to the suit as they never partook in the deregistration of the party.
The judge also held that the AGF was not a necessary party to the suit as ‘it is not in all cases that the Attorney General of the Federation is made a party to a case that borders on constitutional interpretation.”
Taiwo held that the case of ACD vs INEC decided by the Court of Appeal which voided the deregistration of some political parties by INEC was filed before the deregistration of the parties was carried out by INEC unlike what was the case with APA that filed its case the following day after it was deregistered.
However, Counsel to APA, Barr. C. D. Ogbe, told NAN that the party would appeal the judgment.
He said the National Chairman of the party, Mr Emmanuel Urhuahovie, had assured that the party would not relent in its effort until justice was done.
He said though APA was bound by the decision of the court, his client had the constitutional right to appeal the Judgment.
NAN reports that the candidates of APA in the 2020 local government council election of Enugu State had commenced campaign on Feb. 5, 2020 and the deregistration of political parties were carried out by INEC the following day being Feb. 6, 2020, prompting APA to approach the Enugu Judicial Division of the Federal High Court to challenge its deregistration.
The matter was later transferred to the Abuja Division by the Justice Dugbo Oghoghorie of the Enugu Division of the court.